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“Don’t pass me the salt”: How not to stifle ideation and creation

Don’t pass me the salt – by UK-based Producer, Simon Read


Simon Read, UK-based Producer


Recently, reading through a book on creativity and the process of clearing one’s mind to be open to new suggestions and ideas, I came across a section about Thomas Edison – world-famous American inventor of, among other things, the electric light bulb. Edison used to believe that a mind full of assumptions was a closed mind. Bearing this “in mind,” during an interview with potential candidates, Edison would take them to dinner and buy them a bowl of soup, to see whether they asked for salt before they tasted it, thus, in his mind, finding if people were already full of unhelpful assumptions (if they asked for salt without tasting).

This got me thinking. How many times in a week do we “salt” our ideas or those of others before we’ve truly tasted what we see in front of us? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a lot of “soups” that have needed salting, but I can also be honest enough to say I’ve salted ideas before really tasting them in the first place. And this is something that, in a world of creative opportunities, we need to refrain from doing.

Now, I hear you asking, what does salt and soup have to do with events? And the simple answer is “everything.” As a creative agency, it’s our job to push boundaries, to challenge ideas, to ideate and innovate, but “salt” can get in the way of this. When coming up with new, creative ideas, we will often sit with many faces round a table from all different roles and walks of life, because we know that, as part of our process, we don’t have to rely on someone with specific experience in an area in order to ignite good ideas. We have some amazing people within our business who allow us to “taste” the idea first. Yet, we can all be accused of using too much salt when looking at a problem.

Our goal is to also be able to let our clients taste the idea. We all work in fast-paced environments, so sometimes we are all drawn to sticking to habit or “salting before we taste.” But here’s the challenge: by sticking to habit, we stifle the process of ideation and creation. We refrain from looking forward and just look at the past. Scientists do not follow one course; they look at many courses for what can be the next wonder cure. Artists do not hold onto the past; they give to the future. We can all be future thinkers, so before we change a “taste” to what we think it should be, why don’t we all try it without the salt?

My challenge to you all is to leave the salt on the side and see how the soup tastes first.


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